How to Establish Your Business Strategy - BusinessTown

How to Establish Your Business Strategy

“Strategy isn’t just a buzzword that MBAs at huge corporations use to sound intelligent!”

How to Avoid Spinning in Circles

How important is strategy? Whether your business is a one-person start-up or a huge corporation, a great strategy is crucial. Without a strategy, how is your business going to outperform its competitors? In fact, how is it even going to survive? How is it going to attract customers? What is it going to stand for?

In my many different businesses, I’ve spun around in a lot of circles for lack of a solid strategy. Why is it so hard? Strategy is not that complicated! Basically it’s just the few key factors that differentiate your business from those of your competitors.

But it’s easy to fall into traps. Many service business owners proclaim, “My strategy is great service,” while CEOs of product companies exclaim, “Our strategy is to produce great products.” However, these aren’t strategies at all because their competitors are often making the same claims and also producing products that—in the minds of their customers, though necessarily in their own minds—are not really differentiated at all.

So Where Do You Start?

I’d start with doing an evaluation of the state of the industry, the nature of the competition, and how the industry is changing. Then I would evaluate key competitors in depth, particularly focusing on what makes each one different from one another, how they try to distinguish themselves, how customers seem to perceive their differences (which is often quite a different story), what they do well, and what they do poorly.

I might evaluate each of their key products and services that we might be competing with. Then I would list the strategy that each key competitor appears to be using and think about how it is working.

But I would not stop there. Otherwise, the temptation is just to copy one of the competitors’ strategies and be done, and thus totally circumvent the deep thinking process, which the human mind loves to avoid at any cost.

No, instead, I would brainstorm next. What other strategies might work? What matters to customers that existing competitors could be doing a better job of delivering? Is there a niche whose needs are not being well addressed? Is there any strength we bring to the business that others lack?

I would spend a lot of time thinking about new possible strategies. I might look at totally unrelated industries and note whether there is a company outperforming in some way—could their strategy be used in my business?

Another way to come up with a great strategy is to get out and talk with some customers. Don’t just survey them or phone them, but get out and talk with them in person. Come up with some questions and try to just get them talking “off the top of their head” about what they like and don’t like in your competitors, what could be done better, and what an ideal product or service might look like.

Still another possibility is to talk with noncompetitive industry suppliers who are regularly interacting with the current players. Often salespeople regularly visiting and talking with suppliers can come up with great ideas, and of course salespeople love to talk and offer ideas.

The textbook and most systematic way to think about strategy is to create a really solid business plan, examining in depth the market, the industry, and the key competitors.

A Few Simple Strategies

How do you determine what your strategy should be? How do you weigh strengths and weaknesses?

Finding a true strategy—one that really differentiates your business from the competition—may take some energy, but believe me: it’ll be worth it. Here are a few possible strategy variables to consider:

  • High quality versus low price
  • Narrow versus broad product line
  • High-tech versus low-tech products
  • Trendy versus conservative products
  • Brand name versus generic
  • Customized versus standard
  • Niche market versus mainstream market

For years leading consulting firms have been advising their corporate clients to get rid of any business that couldn’t become the market leader. The truth is that you don’t need to be the market leader to successfully compete. But you do need to find some area of strength and some way to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Don’t Copy Your Competitors’ Strategy

When I was nineteen years old, I decided to start a bicycle rental business on Cape Cod (with the incredibly creative name of Bob’s Rent-A-Bike) after I heard about a man earning $150,000 during the summer season renting bicycles (U Pedal It! Inc.). I copied everything he was doing. I bought 50 used bikes and lined up gas stations and motels to act as my rental agents. Then I waited for my profits to roll in—but no one was renting my bikes. The other guy’s strategy didn’t work for me. He had new bikes. I had old ones. He had the best locations. I had what was left.

In desperation, I tried something different. I put to use my competitive advantage—free use of my mother’s station wagon—and offered free delivery of bikes to campsites and motels. Now I had a strategy that differentiated my business from the competition. It didn’t matter that my bicycles were old or what price I was charging. I was the only firm delivering bicycles.

So in summary:

U Pedal It!, Inc. Strategy (Existing Market Leader)

Rent high-quality, new bicycles at dozens of locations around Cape Cod, by arranging for gas stations, motels, and other businesses to act as rental agents. Results: Highly profitable. 

Initial Bob’s Rent-A-Bike Strategy (Trying to Copy the Existing Market Leader but on a Shoestring Budget)

Rent average quality, well-used bicycles at three locations around Cape Cod by arranging for a gas station, a motel, and a sporting goods shop to act as rental agents. With the best locations already taken by U Pedal It! Inc., use whatever secondary quality locations are still available. Charge lower prices. Results: Few rentals, disappointing profits.

New Bob’s Rent-A-Bike Strategy

Deliver bicycles directly to customers’ campsite, motel, or rental cottage. Results: Rentals surged and profits took off. 

Have a Bumper Sticker Strategy!

Coming up with a great strategy is, of course, only half the challenge. Getting all of your employees to “buy into” it is the other half. You can’t just announce to your staff what the strategy is going to be—I’ve tried it, and they forgot it the next day. That’s why it’s so important to get managers (or other key employees if you don’t have managers) involved in setting a new strategic course. Have them participate in discussing their vision of the future. Have them create lists of the company’s strengths and weaknesses. And most of all, carefully consider their opinions in setting direction.

Another thing that has worked for me is having what some call “a bumper sticker strategy,” or just a few words that capture the spirit of the more detailed strategy plan. A simple “bumper sticker strategy” lets everyone in the entire organization know what the strategy is, and it makes them feel part of it.

New Bob’s Rent-A-Bike Bumper Sticker Strategy: “Mobile Bike Rentals”

Now that’s a great bumper sticker strategy! Completely differentiated from the competition. It hits the core of the strategy in just three words. It is very memorable. But keep in mind that the strategy needs to be easily remembered by you and your key employees. For customers you can come up with something different, such as your “unique sales proposition,” which may or may not be identical or similar to your strategy. That’s for another presentation. Here, the purpose of the bumper sticker strategy is just for internal consumption.

About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.

We make starting a business simple.

We make starting a business simple.

Our courses will show you exactly how to start and run a business

Our courses will show you exactly how to start and run a business

Learn everything you need to know to plan, start and grow a business

We’ll show you what to do right from the very beginning. You’ll learn how to find your idea, write your business plan, attract customers and all the other steps to building a successful business.

Our courses are taught by real entrepreneurs

You will learn from BusinessTown’s highly experienced experts and entrepreneurs. They will share their experience, wisdom and skills with you. And they will guide you through every aspect of planning, starting, and growing your business. 

Start a business you love, earn more money and live the life you want

Our easy-to-follow video courses will quickly teach you how to start and run a business. Our courses can turn your dreams into reality even if you don’t have a business idea or don’t know where to start.

You’ll find a course that’s perfect for you

Get unlimited access to 130+ courses. We cover it all…from finding your idea and creating your plan to making sales and building a successful business. No matter where you are in your business journey, there is a course just for you.

Learn at your own pace and on any device

Take all the courses you want. Anytime. Anywhere. Any device. Watch one video lesson a day (average 7 minutes) or binge watch the whole thing. It’s up to you!

Explore our top 3 courses and start learning now


Start-a-Business 101

This course will teach you all the basics of starting a business. You will be guided step by step through the entire process of starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur.


How to Find a Business Idea

Learn how to find a great business idea with this course. Discover how to generate awesome business ideas, how to evaluate and validate them and how to choose the very best one for you.


How to Create a Business Plan

Learn how to create an excellent business plan from scratch! This course will walk you through every step from start to finish. You will be guided by instructional videos, a sample plan and a fill-in-the-blanks business plan template.

Get unlimited access to all these popular courses

You’ll get all the tools you need to succeed

You’ll get all the tools you need to succeed

Fill-in-the-blank templates and 50+ other tools will show you exactly what to do at any given step. They will save you time, keep you organized and help you get your business up and running as rapidly as possible. 

Our most popular tools include:

  • 300 Best Business Ideas, 111 pages
  • Business Idea Evaluation Worksheet
  • Ultimate Startup Checklist, 18 pages
  • Business Plan Template, 29 pages
  • Sample Business Plan, 35 pages
  • Marketing Plan Under $2k, 12 pages
  • Financial Statement Templates

What they are saying

What they are saying

Watch the video tour and get ready to become your own boss


BusinessTown founder Bob Adams’s courses and books have been featured in:

Learn how to start a business with our video courses

130+ courses

Unlimited access

50+ tools

Templates & more

Discussion board

Get expert answers

Frequently asked questions

BusinessTown is an e-learning platform built for people interested in starting and running a business. 

On BusinessTown, you get unlimited access to 130+ business courses taught by real successful entrepreneurs and highly skilled experts. You also gain access to 50+ business tools and to our discussion board, where you can get expert answers to your business questions.

No matter what you want to learn or where you are on your business journey, there is a course for you. 

Marketing, ideas, financing, planning, naming, how to get started… BusinessTown covers everything you need to start and run your business right. 

The courses are available anywhere, anytime, on any device, and you can take them at your own pace. 

Create your BusinessTown account to get started and try BusinessTown free for 7 days. 

BusinessTown includes unlimited access to 130+ business courses taught by real successful entrepreneurs and highly skilled experts.

You also get full access to 50+ downloadable tools like worksheets, templates, and samples, and to our discussion board where you can get an answer to any business question you have. 

BusinessTown is $19.95 per month. It provides unlimited access to all 130+ courses, all tools, and our discussion board, where you can get expert answers to your business questions.

We offer a free 7-day trial. If you decide that BusinessTown is not for you, then just cancel within 7 days of starting your free trial and you will not be charged at all.

If you wish to cancel your BusinessTown account, you can do so through your account page under the Billing section. 

If you have any questions, email us at We are more than happy to help!

BusinessTown includes 130+ courses on all business topics: Getting started, business ideas, business plans, strategy, marketing, websites, social media, online advertising, finance, accounting, leadership, sales, legal issues, home-based businesses and more!

Looking for a business idea? Why don’t you check out our course How to Find a Business Idea. 

Do you need help creating your business plan? We’ve got you covered. Take a look at our course How to Create a Business Plan.

Do you want to be walked step by step through the entire process of starting a business? Check out our ultimate course, Start-a-Business 101. 

Are you not sure that you are ready to start your own business? Consider our course, What It Takes to Start a Business.

Are you looking for financing for a new or existing business? We offer 5 courses on financing a small business. We suggest you start with the course, How to Finance Your Business.

Do you want to learn about marketing? Because it’s so important, we offer over 30 courses on sales and marketing. Consider starting with the short course, Developing Your Marketing Message.

Want to learn about marketing online? We offer 5 courses on creating websites, 6 courses on digital marketing and 5 courses on promoting through social media. To get started we recommend the course, The Complete Guide to Digital Marketing.

Looking to get inspired and learn how other entrepreneurs succeeded in starting and growing their businesses? We offer several courses on this including, How to Succeed as a Woman Entrepreneur.

Do you already have a business and are looking to improve it? We have several courses on this topic. Try starting with the course, How to Boost Profits.

No matter where you are on your business journey, there is a course for you.   

On BusinessTown you have access to 50+ downloadable tools like worksheets, samples, and templates to help you start and run a business. 

Our most popular tools include:

The Ultimate Startup Checklist, 18 pages 

The 300 Best Small Business Ideas ebook, 105 pages 

The Complete Business Plan Template, 29 pages

Complete Sample Business Plan, 35 pages 

Sample Marketing Plan Under $2k, 12 pages

One Page Marketing Plan Template

One Page Sample Marketing Plan

50 Guerilla Marketing Tactics Worksheet, 8 pages

Business Idea Evaluation Worksheet 

8 Basic Steps to Making the Sale Template

Sales Presentations that Your Customers Will Love Template

Sales Presentation Sample Dialog

50 Ways to Generate Endless Sales Leads Worksheet 

Cold Calling Script Template and Sample

Emails that Land Sales Template and Sample

Voicemails that Get Callbacks Template and Sample

Income Statement Templates and Samples

Balance Sheet Templates and Samples

Cash Flow Templates and Samples

Calculate Depreciation Template

Key Financial Ratios Sample

How I Started a Successful Business with No Money and No Experience, Case Study

Key Questions to Select the Best Business Idea Worksheet

Validate Your Business Idea Worksheet

Using the 6-Step Approach to Choose a Business Idea Case Study

21 Easy-to-Start Part-Time Business Ideas Guide

42 Home-Based Businesses You Can Start Guide

Why I Repeatedly Changed the Legal Entity of My Business, Case Study

Evaluate Customer Segments and Competitors Worksheet

Differentiate Your Business from Competitors Worksheet

How I Differentiated My First Business in a Crowded Marketplace, Case Study

Creating a Press Release Template and Sample

Marketing Bob’s Rent-A-Bike, Case Study

Planning, Designing and Creating Your Website Worksheet

Search Engine Optimization Worksheet

50 Blog Post Ideas Worksheet

50 Creative Online Marketing Ideas Worksheet

Evaluate Potential Names for Your Business Worksheet

How I Financed Buying a Business Case Study

Cover Letter to Seek Financing Sample

Collection Letter Samples

The Four Quadrant Theory of Time Management Graphic

BusinessTown courses will show you how to start your business right and grow it into a highly successful enterprise. 

You will learn from highly experienced entrepreneurs and experts who have been there and done it. You won’t have to learn by trial and error. You won’t have to guess what to do next. BusinessTown courses will guide you through your entire business journey.

Even if you are a beginner you will quickly learn how to start a business you love. If you already have a business, BusinessTown will show how to grow it and make it better.

By just watching one video lesson a day (about 7 minutes average) you can quickly ramp up your business knowledge. No matter where you are on your business journey, there is a course for you taught by an expert on BusinessTown.

What would you like to learn more about today? Starting a business? How to find a business idea? How to write a business plan? How to do your marketing? How to build an online presence? How to get financing? How to prepare financial statements? BusinessTown has courses that cover all these topics and hundreds more.

So if you want to become a smarter entrepreneur and start and build a successful business, you’ll want to start streaming the courses on BusinessTown today.

Copyright © 2021 BusinessTown LLC. All rights reserved. BusinessTown ® is a registered trademark of BusinessTown LLC.